Wednesday, November 7, 2012

2013 Free Agent Team

Last year I challenged myself to build a team of free agents with a budget of $100 million.  I hoped the team would be around .500 (based on WAR).  The results were not as good as I had hoped.   If at first you do not succeed, and all that.

I would have done this again even if I'd build a 100 win team.  It's challenging, fun, and forces me to look at a lot of players that I wouldn't ordinarily look at.

After wasting a lot of time doing copious amounts of research this is the team that I've decided on

Again, there weren't a lot of options on the market.  Russ Martin, AJ Pierzynski and Mike Napoli were the only guys I really considered.  As a Dodger fan, Rod Barajas wasn't that attractive and no one else looks like a full time starter.  Pierzynski is coming off of a huge season which I thought might over inflate his price - so I didn't pick him.  Napoli is only kind of a catcher.  I thought about taking him as a C/1B player, but that would necessitate spending more on a back up catcher.  So I chose Martin.  Though he's not near the player he was early in his career with the Dodgers he still gets on base and provides solid defense while playing full time.  He should sign a contract somewhere around 2 years and $15 million.

For my backup I'm taking Humberto Quintero on a minor league deal.  Why?  I think he'll sign a minor league deal and get into some games for some team.   Hard to ask for more than that from a backup catcher.

First base
Again, not much on the market.  Carloses Pena and Lee were cheap considerations, but are just as likely to be in the crapper as to be productive players.  Adam LaRoche is coming off of a good year, but his history is inconsistent and I'm afraid the Nationals are going to make him a ridiculous offer which would have forced me to explain why I 'low-balled' him.  Mike Napoli appears here again, but I went with Kevin Youkilis.  He's in the decline part of his career, but showed in the 2nd half of 2012 that he can still provide with the bat.  He can also play 3rd, which might come in handy later.  The White Sox declined a $13 million option on him, so I think that something in the area of 2 years and $19 million should get him.

Second base
One of the tougher decisions with a slew of uninteresting options to choose from (Mike Fontenot and Ryan Theriot, I'm looking at you).  More interesting was Kelly Johnson - I almost took him with a 2 year $12 million offer.  Maybe I should have.  I instead went with Macier Izturis.  Izturis has been a super back up for the Anaheim Angels for the last 8 years playing 2nd, 3rd, and SS while being something like a major league average bat (wRC+ of 94).  He might not really be a full time player but on a 2 year $8 million contract, I couldn't refuse.

Third base
Blech!  I almost with with the two guys above (Youkilis and Izturis) here.  Mark Reynolds also merited some consideration, but I couldn't get too excited about that.  Placido Polanco?  Mark Wiggenton?  Pass.  Instead I went with Eric Chavez.  He had an excellent part-time season with the Yankees last year, and it's likely he'll do the same in 2013 (play part time...I hope (for purposes of this exercise only (I'm no Yankee fan)) not necessarily play excellently).  For $5 million over 1 season he could be a bargain.

More infield disaster.  Marco Scutaro and Stephen Drew are the two best players.  I couldn't find a way to work either into my budget.  I almost put Macier Izturis here, but he's not really a SS and then who would play 2nd?  Jason Bartlett almost made the team, but I wasn't sure he'd get a gig in 2013.  So I went with another guy who might not play (Brilliant!) - Alex Gonzalez.  Gonzalez was the booby prize for Milwaukee last year after the missed out on Clint Barmes.  Gonzalez is ok at short.  Typically, good enough defense and just enough bat to make him useful.  1 year and $4 million.

I'm certainly not thrilled with my starters, so I had to be a bit more aggressive with the backups.
Jeff Keppinger.  Keppinger had an excellent season with the Rays in 2012 hitting .367/.439 which was 28% better than the average hitter.  The Rays were able to limit his at bats vs righties.  Something my hypothetical team will try to do by platooning him with Eric Chavez at 3rd.  He's not terrible vs righties so he can play some 2nd and 1st as well if needed.  Keppinger made $1.7 million last year.  I'm hoping doubling that to $3.5 million and 2 years will get him.
I also went with Kensuke Tanaka of the NBP.  Tanaka is a 32 year old 2Bman who has played for the Nipoon Ham Fighters (Nipoon Ham is the city, Fighters is the nickname).   He doesn't have much of a bat, but is said to be an excellent defender.  He projects to be a fringe MLB starter or a backup.  Exactly what I need.  I'll offer him $800 K to play in the (fake) MLB.

Left field
It's a good season to need outfielders.  Lots of excellent players in free agency.  Josh Hamilton, Justin Upton, Michael Bourn, Torii Hunter, Ichiro! even Ssory Doc.  I didn't sign any of those guys.  To play left I went with...Melky Cabrera.  Melky was having a superb season last year before getting nailed for violating the MLB's drug policy.  My team is going to have to take some risks, so getting Melky on a 1 year $6.5 million deal while he tries to rebuild his image and value could pay off handsomely.

Center field
A lot of debate here.  Spend big on Hamilton?  Upton or Bourn?  Thought long and hard about all of those guys.  I really wanted Bourn.  Again, I was afraid a team might blow up the market for him.  Same for Justin Upton.  That left me debating between Shane Victorino and Angel Pagan.  I went with Pagan for 3 years and $36 million.

Right field
Hunter Pence to complete the SF Giants OF.

No.   Not a lot of offense on this team so I went with a guy who hit .219 in 2008.  That was 5 years ago.  Now he's a guy who gets on base (.36% of the time in his career) and has some power (20+ home runs for 8 consecutive years).  That guy?  Nick Swisher.  One of the more underrated offensive players in the game.  He's also an excellent defender.  He's said to be asking for Jayson Werth money ($126 million).  He's not getting that.  I'm offering $102 million over 6 seasons.

Backup Outfielders
Last year I went with DeWayne Wise.  He's a solid defensive player and defense comes cheap.  I'm going to try him again.  For minimal cost he should provide some value.  For my other outfielder, I'm going with the opposite of Wise.  Eric Hinske.  He was terrible last year but Hinske has been a league average hitter for his career and a bit better than that vs right-handers.  For the league minimum I'm betting on a comeback from him.

Starting Pitchers
Starting pitching is where I really missed last year.  My 5 starters and $35 million accounted for 3 WAR.

Over half of that WAR was provided by Jeff Francis.  I'm going to go that route again.  Last year I bid $6 million for him and he signed a minor league contract.  This year I'm reducing my offer to 1 year and $2 million.

Last season I gambled on a couple of injured pitchers Erik Bedard and Rich Harden.  For $10 million they gave me just over 1 WAR.  I lost the gamble, but I'm going to that well again too.  This time I'm giving Roy Oswalt a 1 year $6 million contract.  He was terrible coming back from injury last season, but BABIP and HR/FB were what killed him and those are two of the least stable indicators.  I think there is some value to be had.  The velocity and movement on his pitches in similar to what he had in 2011.

Another high-reward pitcher is Francisco Liriano.  He's teased us with two incredible seasons in 2006 and 2010 surrounded by a bunch of below average seasons.  Maybe, just maybe, he's got another one of those seasons in him.  For 2 years and $14 million I'll find out.

With two gambles I need something a bit more stable.  Jeremy Guthrie has consistently been a 2 - 2.5 WAR pitcher over the past 6 seasons.  He was a wreck in Colorado, but that was totally to be expected.    He was much better after he moved to Kansas City.  I think he's a bit under the radar (though he apparently asked for 3 years $35 million) and I think I can get him for something like 2 years and $15 million.

One more spot in the rotation.  I'm inviting Jamie Moyer, Dana Eveland and Kevin Millwood to camp on minor league deals.  Millwood has the most chance of providing innings for a major league team next season.  Jamie Moyer was terrible for the Rockies last year, but that was (like with Guthrie) totally the wrong situation for him.  I think there's something left in the tank.  His underlying numbers weren't bad.  Dana Eveland might get a chance in a major league rotation, he might also find bullpen work.  I'd be happy with him as either.

Last year I went on the cheap and got what I paid for.  7 minor league contracts netted me .2 WAR.  Luis Ayala was very good providing me .8 WAR.  Nobody else was good.  I'm trying a similar strategy again though.

I am going to give Matt Lindstrom 1 year and $2.5 million.  He was recently let go by the DBacks despite the fact that he was coming off of a strong season .

I'm also going to give Jamey Wright $850 thousand dollars.  He had a very good season with LA last year.  He doesn't strike anyone out, but he gets a ton of ground balls.   That's useful.

Beyond that, I'm throwing spaghetti at the wall and taking what sticks.

I listed 6 right-handed relievers and 5 left-handed relievers in descending order of how I want them.  If they sign for the minimum (or close to it) I'll take them.   Two righties, two lefties and the next best guy.

I'd just like to point out the Joey Divine has excellent stuff and success in the majors, it's only injury that has held him back.

There you have it, my $100 million team of cast-offs.  Wish me luck

Monday, October 29, 2012

Hitter vs Pitcher matchups don't mean a thing. 2012 Playoff version

About a year ago I wrote this post in which I referred to the work of other smarter and better writers on the topic of hitter vs pitcher match ups.   They, and I, concluded that past performance of a specific hitter facing a specific pitcher doesn't predict future performance.

Still, plenty of baseball "experts" cited past hitter/pitcher matchups during the 2012 playoffs.  I recorded as many of these as a I found on Twitter (I did not record the statements made on air, since I'd have no linkable proof that the statements were made) and tracked the outcomes during the playoffs.

Here are the statements for hitters who had had success against the pitchers they were facing:
Meanwhile, Werth, Harper, Morse, Desmond & Espinosa are a combined 17 for 43 (.395) lifetime vs. Jaime Garcia.
Combined batting average of ' position players on today's roster against' Lohse: .331. Chipper 6-13, HR. Prado 6-14.
Delmon Young, who leads off 2nd inning for, is a career 11-for-19 (.579) against Andy Pettitte. 

The hitters mentioned by name combined to hit .500 (23 for 46) against the named pitchers.  How'd they do in the playoffs?

2 for 14.  That's a .149 batting average.  

Hitter vs Pitcher past performance DOES NOT predict future performance.  

Friday, October 12, 2012

2012 Free Agent Team - Review

Back in November I gave myself an imaginary $100 million and challenged myself to construct a team from free agent players.

Here's the team that I picked

You can read about my reasoning here.

Now that the season is over it's time to see how I did.

First, we need to see how well I read the market.  Did I offer contracts anywhere close to what the players actually received?

I don't think that I did too badly.  I estimated the players to sign for a total of $97 million for 2012 and they actually signed for $71 million.  I over paid by $28 million.

My biggest mistakes:
Offering both Jason Marquis and Joel Piniero 2 year $15 million contacts.  Both signed minor league deals.
Offering Jeff Francis $6 million.  He signed a minor league deal that paid him $1.5 million for playing in the majors.
Offering Rich Harden $4 million.  He was injured and did not sign a contract for 2012.
Offering Ramon Hernandez $11 million for 2 years.  He signed for closer to half of that.

Other than those mistakes I was pretty spot on.  And, in defense of my misses on Marquis, Piniero and Harden, there were medical issues of which I don't have nearly the access to information that actual GM's do.

There's also my 6 year $140 million offer to Prince Fielder.  I offered Prince the kingly sum of $23 million per year.  He signed for $23.5 million per year, but for 9 years.  About $70 million more than I offered.  I wouldn't have gotten him.

Now, how'd the players that I wanted to sign actually perform?

Not that well.  Using Wins Above Replacement (WAR) my team would have won about 70 games.

Where'd I go wrong?  The pitching staff.  None of the pitchers that I gambled on worked out.  I expected Harden to give 1.5 - 3 (or more) WAR.  He didn't throw a pitch, neither did Joel Piniero.   Eric Bedard threw a few pitches, but I was hoping for more than 1.3 WAR.  Marquis survived most of the season, but wasn't productive.  Only Jeff Francis pitched well.  Then, Doug Davis.  He didn't get to the bigs this year, but his minor league numbers indicate that he wouldn't have been a disaster if he had.

Battery mate Ramon Hernandez didn't live up to expectations either.  From 2009 - 2011 he hit .372/.368 (OBP/SLG) which was a league average hitter.  In 2012 he only managed .247/.353 which was less than half as productive as an average hitter.

I had felt terrific about getting Matt Antonelli.  The Orioles had signed him to a major league contract.  A player I'd long thought deserved a big league chance was about to get it.  Didn't work out and Antonelli's career looks finished.

Max Ramirez and Esteban German didn't play in the bigs this year.  Ramirez hit .374/.474 in AAA and German hit .344/.345 in Japan indicating they had something left in the tank.

Who worked out?
The outfield performed well - DeJesus, Crisp and Willingham combined for almost 9 wins and 4th outfielder, Dwayne Wise, was his normal underrated self providing value with his glove.

With Antonelli giving nothing, having Hairston at 2B (at least until he got injured) would have helped soften the blow.

Prince Fielder did exactly what one would expect Prince Fielder to do.

Luis Ayala provided excellent value on a minor league contract.

So my $100 million team wasn't very good.  That should be somewhat expected considering that it was made up entirely of players who's teams decided that they weren't worth the contract that they were expected to sign (or they couldn't afford that contract).

Another crop of free agents are about to be let loose.  I'll see if my next incarnation does better

Monday, September 10, 2012

9/11/2001: Never Forget

September 11th 2001 was a terrible day.  

Nearly 3000 innocent people lost their lives in the attacks on the World Trade Centers, Pentagon and Flight 93.

It was a significant day in a lot of ways.

Maybe I'm a callous disgusting human.  Maybe I'm not.  But it wasn't that significant of a day in the number of deaths.

By my best estimate/googling it appears that, on average, about 150,000 people die every day.

An additional 3000 died on September 11th 2001.  How does that look on a graph?

Hardly a blip.

How about if we look at it from a more nation-centric point of view?

It certainly stands out a bit more here.

And that's the point.

The more narrow our focus.  The more people that we EXclude.  The bigger the impact.

Never forget.  One hundred and fifty thousand people a day are dying.  They won't have their names carved into a billion dollar monument in New York City.  Their deaths won't start wars between nations.

But their friends and families will miss and love them just as the friends and families will miss and love the victims of the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks and Flight 93.

I know what I am about to type will fall on blind eyes, but I in no way mean to disrespect those who lost on September 11th 2001.  The pain of so suddenly losing a loved one must be almost death in itself.  But, in terms of death, September 11th 2001 was likely just another day.

Used the number generator at to generate the number of deaths for each day.

For the whole word graph the settings were between 145,000 and 155,000.  Why those specific numbers?  I have no good answer.  They are round numbers and they seemed somewhat reasonable.
For the number of deaths on September 11th 2001, I chose 153,000 (the average number of deaths + 3000).

For the US only graph I figured/googled that the US population is about 300,000,000.  I then googled that 6699 people per day die in the US.  I then set the number generator to choose numbers between 6476 and 6922 (the same rate as in the world graph).  For September 11th 2001 I chose 6699+3000.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Unwritten Rules in Baseball: The Nationals are better than the Cubs

We oft hear of the "unwritten rules of baseball".  Things like not mentioning a no-hitter, not walking between the catcher and pitcher, not stepping on the pitcher's mound when you're on offense, retaliating for one of your teammates being hit by a pitch, etc.

I think the reason that these rules are unwritten is because they are too stupid to write  down.

Case in point, last night's Nationals vs Cubs games.

The Nationals have the best record in baseball.  The Cubs, well, they have a better record than the Astros.

Last night the Nationals were beating the Cubs 7 - 2 in the 5th inning when this thing happened.

The Nationals had been putting it to the Cubs in this series, outscoring them 29 - 8 at that point.  Apparently, Cubs' bench coach, Jamie Quirk, began yelling at Nationals' 3rd basecoach, Bo Porter, about Jayson Werth swinging at a 3-0 pitch with the bases loaded and the Nationals up by 5 runs.

The fracas eventually cleared, Werth hit a long flyball to right field and order was restored.

Until the bottom of the 6th inning when this happened.

Harper was the next Nationals batter after Jayson Werth and Cubs' pitcher, Lendy Castillo, appears to try and hit him with a pitch.

I'll admit I don't know exactly what happened and I'm doing some speculation and mind reading here.

Apparently the Cubs felt that Werth should not have been swinging 3-0 up by 5 runs.  That's when things first started.  Why should Werth not have done that?  I don't know.  Up by 5 the Nationals should quite trying to win because the game has already been decided?  That's certainly not true.  The Yankees had a 5-run inning that same night.  A 5-run lead is a good lead, but certainly not insurmountable.  But, maybe, the Cubs felt the Nationals should stop playing to win at that point.


But it gets even dumber.

If the Cubs felt that that Nationals should stop trying to win the game, why were the Cubs still trying to win the game?

How do we know the Cubs were trying to win the game?  Because they didn't throw at Jayson Werth in the 5th inning.

Lendy Castillo could very easily have thrown a 3-1 fastball at Werth right after the 'inappropriate' swing.  But he didn't.  Why?  Because the bases were loaded.  Throwing at Werth would have given the Nationals another run.  Why wouldn't the Cubs want the Nationals to score another run?  Because the Cubs were still trying to win the game.  If the Cubs are still trying to win the game, then, by any type of logic, the Nationals should also still be trying to win the game.

Apparently that type of logic eludes a frightening portion of individuals involved with Major League Baseball.

So, instead of throwing at Jayson Werth, the Cubs wait until the next inning to throw at Bryce Harper.

Harper has been at the center of controversy before.

There were a faction of idiots who felt that 'the punk' Harper deserved this.

There is another faction, that includes me, who thinks that Harper is an amazing player who combines outstanding natural talent with maximum effort as evidenced by his steal of home against Hamels and this similar play made in the first inning of the game against the Cubs.  Of course, Harper got to 3rd base by combining his talent and hustle on this triple.

The Nationals are having an amazing season because they combine talent with hard work, hustle, and smart baseball.  The Cubs are looking up at them and should look up to them instead of engaging in this petty nonsense.  

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Who I'm rooting for in 2012

With only about a month left in the 2012 baseball season the pennant and wild card and 2nd wild card races are getting interesting.

I don't like baseball, according to some, but I'm pulling for the Dodgers to win the NL West.  At 4.5 games behind the Gnats they currently have just a 13% chance of winning their division.

They're a lot close to both of the 2 wild card slots though.  If the season ended today the Atlanta Braves and St. Louis Cardinals would be the wild cards.  The Dodgers trail Atlanta by 3.5 games and the Cardinals by 1.5 games (though the Cardinals are currently losing to the Mets).  The Dodgers' wild card probability is about 14%.

LA has passed up the Pirates in the standings - they lead Pittsburgh by 1 game.

This is where it gets interesting.  I'd like to see the Pirates in the playoffs, but not at the expense of LA missing out.  So, I can't root for you Pittsburgh.  I have no desire to see St. Louis or Atlanta make the post season, so I'm perfectly content to point my mental powers towards their opponents in an effort to control the outcome of those games.

In the NL East the Nationals are a great story.  Having lived in DC for 3 years I have a bit of a soft spot for the team and will be pulling for them to win their division and beat every team in the playoffs they encounter that doesn't hail from Los Angeles.   I need the Braves to lose, of course, but I'll be rooting for the Phillies to finish the season strong.  They have an excellent core of players and I think they'll be back with a vengeance next year and look forward to some Nats/Phillies rowdy-dows as the Phillies try to avoid passing the torch completely to the young Nats.

The NL Central looks like the Reds' to lose.  They are the best team and I don't expect anyone to challenge them for the division.  Pittsburgh and St. Louis (as mentioned above) stand to stand in between LA and the post season so they must lost.  The Brew Crew are an interesting collection of players and I'd like to see them finish up over .500.  Chicago's Cubs will have their day under the guidance of Theo, but not yet.  They can lose.  Houston has a chance to be historically awful.  I'd like to see that.

Everyone in the NL West not named the Dodgers can go to hell.

In the AL East, things have gotten interesting as of late.  The Yankees, Orioles and Rays are all within sniffing distance of each other.  I always root against the Yankees, and it's been working recently.   I hope that it will continue to.  I hold no real love for the Orioles.  As long as their winning threatens New York's chances then I'll cheer for Baltimore.  I'm certainly a fan of what the Rays have been doing since 2008 (actually before that when it became clear they knew how to run an organization) and I'd like to see them take the division.  I want to root for Boston, but I don't think there's any point in that.  They aren't going to the playoffs and if they start winning they might think James Loney had something to do with it and re-sign him.  I wish that fate only on the Yanks.  Toronto?  With no Jose Bautista, there isn't much to make me pay attention.

The AL Central should be an exciting race.  I though the Tigers would walk away with the division, but Chicago has gotten resurgent seasons from a few players and Kenny Williams has done whatever it is that he does again to get the White Sox in contention.  But, I don't like the White Sox.  Detroit all of the way.  As with the Rays, the Royals have some interesting things going on.  I'd like to see them finish strong and put themselves in good shape for next season.

The AL West is fun as well.  Texas and Anaheim were supposed to battle down to the wire.  The Angels stumbled and it looks like the Rangers will claim the division.  Of course Oakland has come back from the dead and I can't even resist their charm.  Go A's.

Who I Want To Make The Playoffs
NL West - Dodgers
NL Central - Reds
NL East - Nationals
Wild Card 1 - Pittsburgh
Wild Card 2 - one

AL East - Rays
AL Central - Tigers
AL West - Rangers
Wild Card 1 - A's
Wild Card 2 - Orioles

Who I'll be rooting for
Whoever is playing the Giants
Whoever is playing the Yankees

Who I'll be rooting against
St. Louis
White Sox

Go teams!!!!

*All playoff probability data from the Outstanding

Thursday, August 23, 2012

What is an Ace? 2011

I asked this question after the 2010 season and these were the results.

According to fWAR the top 30 pitchers in baseball had an average line of:
14 - 10, 3.23 ERA in 32 starts, 212 innings

The main point that I wanted to wait was that the average fan likely underrated the performance of most pitchers.

I'd imagine that most people would see a pitcher with a 14 - 10 record with a 3.23 ERA and think that he was a 'good' pitcher and not representative of the best 30 pitchers in baseball. 

I decided to take another look this season.  I used a similar methodology as linked to above.  I sorted by fWAR and divided the pitchers into groups of about 30.  I didn't cut off at exactly 30 because sometimes (often) the cutoff was between pitchers with identical WAR.  That didn't make sense.  So, where there was a tie, I included all pitchers with that WAR.  That makes the difference between 3.5 and 3.4 WAR significant when it really isn't, but I had to make cutoffs somewhere.

Pitchers in the "Ace" group (8.2 to 3.6 WAR) includes the obvious names like Roy Halladay, Justin Verlander, Clayton Kershaw, CC Sabathia and Cliff Lee.  It also includes less obvious names such as Justin Masterson, Brandon McCarthy, Anibal Sanchez and Derek Holland.  These are the true dominant 'ace' pitchers and guys who were all able to pitch a lot of good but not great innings.

The #2 starter group (3.5 to 2.5 WAR) includes Gio Gonzalez, Alexi Ogando, Jordan Zimmermann, Max Scherzer, Roy Oswalt and Derek Lowe.   Mostly guys who made all, or nearly all, of their starts and pitched will during those starts.

The #3 group (2.4 to 1.5 WAR) starts to get a little stranger.  There are the solid but not spectacular pitchers that you would expect;  Hiroki Kuroda, Colby Lewis, and Chad Billingsley but also guys who pitched well but only for a limited time.  Names like: Josh Johnson, Cory Luebke, Josh Colmenter and Felipe Paulino.

The #4 starters (1.4 to 1.0 WAR) are a few guys like Randy Wolf and Joe Saunders who made all their starts but who aren't that good but mostly pitchers who missed more than a handful of starts.  Guys like Brett Anderson and Clay Buchholz.  Stephen Strasburg's 5 dominating starts were enough to land him here as well.

The #5 group (.9 to .5 WAR) again has a few full time starters - Brad Penny, Wade Davis and Aaron Harang but is mostly guys who made 10 to 20 starts during the season.  These names are: Phil Hughes,  Alfredo Simon,  Kyle Davis, and Jonathan Sanchez.

The last group, the AAA pitchers (less than .5 WAR) has some full time starters who were dreadful (Bronson Arroyo, Dillan Gee and JA Happ), a ton of part-time starters (Rich Harden, Chin-Ming Wang, Randy Wells and Kevin Slowey) and guys trying to make a name in the bigs (Matt Moore, Tom Millone, Nate Eovaldi, Lance Lynn and Julio Tehran).

*embiggening available by clicking

Unsurprisingly, ace pitchers are credited with more wins, pitch more innings, make more starts, strike out more batters, walk less batters, give up less home runs and hits, get more ground balls and produce more WAR than other pitchers.  Also not surprising, each level of pitcher produces less than the level above them in most every statistic.

The surprising thing, I think, is just how quickly things fall of after the top pitchers.  The top pitchers can be expected to hold the opposition to just over 3 runs per 9 innings pitched.  While the second tier is giving up nearly 4.

An average #3 pitcher in 2011 went 9 - 10 with a 4.10 ERA in just 162 innings.  I think most people would look at that number and think back of the rotation starter - a guy you'd be looking to upgrade.  In reality, he represents the 50% mark.  Half of pitchers are better than him and half are worse.

The other point that I wanted to make was how important the quantity of innings pitched is.  The number of innings for each group drops off.  That makes sense as I grouped the players by number of runs saved and one can save more runs in more innings.  But it doesn't change the fact that a good pitcher pitching a lot of innings is better than a good pitcher throwing a few innings or a bad pitcher throwing a lot of innings.

Look at the number of starts.  Teams get 32 starts from their aces, 29 from the #2's, 27 from the #3's, 21 from the #4's, and just 15 from the #5's.  That leaves 38 starts for the AAA group.  Some of these guys are prospects making their way into the bigs, some are major league quality pitchers who didn't make it through the season due to injury, but a lot are guys forced into action because someone has to make those starts.

Here's an opportunity to talk about replacement level.  Teams would like those 38 starts to be made by ace level pitchers-but there aren't enough to go around-only 32 in this sample.  Teams would like those 38 starts to be made by #2 level pitchers-but there aren't enough to go around-only 23 in this sample.  Teams would like those 38 starts to be made by #3 or #4 or even #5 level pitchers-but there aren't enough to go around-only 94 in this sample.  108 players made up the AAA group.  This is replacement level.   The supply of useful players is exhausted.  There are roughly 30 players capable of producing at each of the higher levels, but over 100 capable of producing at this level.  Thus, the value of these players drops off considerably - basically to zero.  If a team can't get Kevin Correia  to make a start, they can get John Ely or Yuneski Maya or Alex Sanabia...

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Fili's GOD for 8/22/2012: DBacks vs Marlins

Today's Game Of the Day features the debuts of two starting pitchers.

The first to debut, by virtue of pitching for the home team, will be Tyler Skaggs.  Skaggs' average rank on three prospect lists was 11th.

Skaggs' best pitch is a curveball.   He also throws a 90-92 MPH fastball and an 80-82 MPH change up.  His ground ball rates are averageish (40-44% in the minors) and his K-rates have dropped off considerably pitching in AA and AAA this year (lower 20% as compared to lower 30% at higher levels).  He shows good control with a walk rate around 7.5%.

Jacob Turner will be making his Miami Marlins debut today as well.  Turner came to Miami from Detroit in the Omar Infante and Annibal Sanchez deal.  Turner's average rank was 25 on the prospect lists.  Turner has 6 starts and 121 major league batters faced under his belt from his time in Detroit.  He was unsuccessful, striking out only 12% while walking 9%.  He did show a good ground ball rate (47%) but gave up way too many HR's (2.5 per 9 on a crazy high 20% HR/FB rate).

Even in the minors, Turner's never had a great strike out rate.  In his career he's struck out 18% of hitters (that's Jarod Parker and Tom Millone territory for comparison).  Likewise, his walk rates haven't been outstanding - 9%.  His minor league GB rate is about the same as his major league rate as well - 47%.  He certainly didn't have the same home runs problems in the minors as he has in his major league time, giving up just .56 HR per 9 innings.

Two young pitchers squaring off.

Probably, it will be a 10 -7 final score.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Maybe we shouldn't be quite so eager to get rid of the umpires

Robot Umps?

Can they do this?

Joyce administered CPR to a Diamondbacks' game-day employee in a tunnel leading to the umpires' dressing room minutes on his way into the ballpark Monday, saving her life in a moment nobody who was in the vicinity at Chase Field will soon forget.
Good on you Jim Joyce.

Can you save a life?  Learn how

Red Cross

Saturday, August 18, 2012

They travel in packs, don't they?

So, home runs are cool.  Especially when your team is hitting them.

My team is the LA Dodgers and they haven't been hitting a lot of home runs this season.  They've hit 77 home runs which is tied with the SF Giants for the least in baseball this season.

Before today, it was worse.

The Dodgers hit 4 home runs today off of Atlanta Braves pitchers.  Hanley Ramirez went deep twice, James Loney once and Luis Cruz once.

The first home run came on a 1-1 pitch to Hanley Ramirez with 1 out in the top of the 2nd.  The score was tied 0 - 0 and the Dodgers' win expectancy was 48%.

The second home run came on a 1-0 pitch to James Loney with 1 out in the top of the 2nd.  The score was 1 - 0 Dodgers and the Dodgers' win expectancy was 58%.

The third home run came on the first pitch to Luis Cruz with 1 out in the top of the 2nd.  The score was 2 - 0 Dodgers and the Dodgers' win expectancy was 68%.

The fourth home run came on a 3 - 0 pitch to Hanley Ramirez with 2 outs in the top of the 6th.  The score was 3 - 1 Dodgers and the Dodgers' win expectancy was 75%.

Now, if you were paying attention, you'd have noticed that 3 of those home runs came consecutively.  Not only that, they came in the span of 4 pitches by Ben Sheets.

Let's take a look at those pitches.

Pay closest attention to the light blue pitches.  They should be somewhat easy to find as they are all right in the middle of the plate.  According to Brooksbaseball, Sheets threw 18 pitches in the inning and 12 were strikes. This data includes pitches out of the strike zone that Dodgers batters offered at.  By my count 8 of the 18 pitches Sheets threw were right down the middle, 7 of the pitches were well outside of the strike zone and 3 were borderline.  I don't think that's a recipe for success.  Looks like Sheets was having trouble locating his pitches in the second inning.  

Another interesting thing was Sheets' approach to the Dodger hitters.  This next chart shows pitches as if all batters were right-handed.  That is, inside pitches to left-handed hitters appear to the left of the chart while outside pitches to left-handed hitters appear to the right of the chart.  The same as to right-handed batters in both instances.

Easy to see that Sheets was trying to stay away from Dodger hitters, and generally missing with his location.  There are 9 pitches to the outside edge of the plate.  Dodger hitters took 7 of them.  5 were called balls.  

Sheets was missing away with pitches and was orced to throw back over the plate where Dodger hitters could drive the ball over the fence.   

Of course, any time I am discussing Dodger back-to-back home run streaks I'm reminded of one of the most exciting moments in Dodger history.

Trailing 9 - 5 in the bottom of the 9th inning the Dodgers had a 3% chance of winning the game.  

Jeff Kent homered; 7% chance of winning.
JD Drew homered; 14% chance of winning.
Russ Martin homered; 27% chance of winning.
Marlin Anderson homered; 68% chance of winning.

Then, to top if off, Nomar Garciaparra homored in the 11th inning to give the Dodgers the win.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Yakety Sax: The Windy City (8/10/12)

It gets windy in Chicago, so I hear.

Especially in Wrigley field.

Maybe these players can use that as an excuse

Cue the music

Enjoy the these gifs from Chad Moriyama

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Yakety Sax: Houston Astros Defense (8/7/12)

It's been almost a year since my last 'Yakey Sax' post.

Thanks to the Houston Astros defense for reminding me of this theme.

Watch the video


play the music


The play begins in the top of the 11th inning of the Astros and Nationals game on August 6th.   With no outs newly acquired catcher Kurt Suzuki attempts to sacrifice Roger Bernadina to 2nd base.  A successful sacrifice would have left the Astros with a 44% win expectancy.   The resulting errors allowed Bernadina to score and Suzuki to reach 3rd base leaving the Astros with only a 20% win expectancy.  This single play cost the Astros about 25% win expectancy.

Other Yakety Sax plays
Chicago Cubs
Toronto Blue Jays
Kansas City Royals
Jonathan Herrera
New York Yankees
LA Dodger baserunning

Sunday, July 29, 2012

2013 Phillies: What to expect

The Phillies have been one of the most successful and talked about teams of the last decade.  They've appeared in 2 World Series, winning 1.  They've won their division 5 consecutive years.  They've increased their win total for 5 consecutive seasons.  They've averaged 90 wins per season over the last 10 years and 95 wins per season over the last 5 years.  They've made huge waves on the free agent and trade markets.  The City of Brotherly Love has had ample reason to love their Phillies.

This year has been different.  

Last season ended unceremoniously with the Phillies losing in the NLDS to the Cardinals and Ryan Howard tearing his ACL while making the final out.   

This season picked up as poorly as the last left off.  Howard missed the first 3 months of the season.  Chase Utley missed the same.  Roy Halladay uncharacteristically spent time on the DL and hasn't been himself.  Cliff Lee is 1 - 6 with an ERA closer to 4 than to 2, or even 3.  They are 11 games under .500.  

In short: Disaster.

Many say that the Phillies are finished.  They are old and overpaid.  One of the worst teams in baseball nex year.  Are they right?

Let's break down the Phillies by position.

Position.  2012 Player.  2013 salary

Catcher: Carlos Ruiz.  $5 million team option that is almost certain to be picked up.
Ruiz has been a solid catcher for a good portion of Philly's run.  This year he's been the team MVP.  He's always posted solid OBP numbers, this year he's added about 50 points to his career OBP.  He's also turned into a slugger; 14 home runs and an additional 150 points of slugging percentage.  Ruiz is unlikely to continue at this pace, but he's an excellent player for the Phillies, especially at $5 million.

First base: Ryan Howard.  $20 million in year 2 of a terrible 5 year extension.  
Howard is one of the most overrated players in baseball; also one of the most over paid.  That doesn't make him a bad player.  The Phillies certainly missed his offense early in the season.  He's only played a few games since coming back but he looks like the same Ryan Howard that we've known.

2007-2011: .358/.539 (OBP/SLG) which was 29% better than the league average hitter.
16 2012 games: .344/.500 (OBP/SLG) which is 29% better than the league average hitter.

No reason to think that Howard's injury is causing any decrease in performance.  

Second Base: Chase Utley.  $15 million in the final year of his contract.  
Utley also missed most of 2012.  Unlike Howard, Utley's injuries do seem to be taking a toll on him.  Between 2005 and 2010 Utley was one of the best players in baseball.

2005-2010: .388/.523 (OBP/SLG) which was 38% better than the average hitter.
Then the injuries hit
2011: .344/.425 - 16% better than the average hitter

Thus far in 2012: .340/.481 - 18% better than the average hitter.

Utley is no longer one of the best players in all of baseball.  Now he's one of the best second basemen in baseball, when he's on the field.  How much he'll be on the field in 2013, is a big question.

Third Base: Placido Polanco.  $5.5 million mutual option.
Polanco's signing was met with skepticism by many but it's worked out well for Philadelphia.  Formerly a second baseman, he's played exceptional defense at 3rd.  His bat has been in decline though.  He was a well above hitter from 2003-2008.  In his time with the Phillies his offense has been close enough to average that his defense was able to make him a productive player.  This season, his defense looks to be slipping and his bat is useless at 31% worse than average.   I don't think that Philly will bring Polanco back for another season.  

Shortstop: Jimmy Rollins.  $11 million
The arrival of Rollins began the Phillies ascent to dynasty status.  He's put up 46 WAR in the 11+ seasons since becoming the Phillies' starting SS in 2001.  From 2004-2007 he average over 5 WAR per season.  He's fallen off from those numbers but he's still a solid player and is on pace for about 4 WAR this season.  

Reports of Rollins' demise appear to have been premature.

Left Field:  Juan Pierre.  Free Agent
Left field has been a position of weakness for Philadelphia.  It was manned by Raul Ibanez from 2009-2011.  Ibanez had a surprisingly productive 2009, a poor 2010 and a horrific 2011.  Prospect Domonic Brown was supposed to take over in 2012, but he's shown nothing in 270 major league plate appearances and has struggled in the minors as well.  Juan Pierre played himself into the position with a resurgent year of average offense and below average defense.  He's on pace for less than 2 WAR and Philly should be looking for an upgrade in 2013 as Pierre is unlikely to match this production again.  

Phillies' fans also had high hopes for John Mayberry Jr after a 2011 performance that saw him hit 33% better than the average hitter with a .341/.539 (OBP/SLG) line.  Predictably, he hasn't been able to maintain that pace and has only hit .271/.388 (OBP/SLG) this season, which is 25% worse than the average hitter.  

The Phillies will have opportunity to upgrade this position for 2013.  

Center field: Shane Victorinio.  Free Agent.
The Flyin' Hawaiian has been another core player for Philadelphia.  His .350/.440 (OBP/SLG) offense (12% better than average) and good defense has produced 24 WAR for Philadelphia from 2006 to 2011.  That's 4 WAR per season.  This year he's only hitting .320/.390, which is right at average production, but with league offense down he's still on pace for over 3 wins.  At 32, Philly should probably start to expect some decline and might be wise to look elsewhere for a center fielder for 2013.  

Right Field:  Hunter Pence.  Eligible for arbitration.
Pence came to Philadelphia last year and hit his way into the hearts of the Philly fans.  With Houston, Pence generally hit about 15% better than the league average hitter.  In the final 2 months of 2011, with the Phillies, he hit 58% better than the league.  He, predictably, hasn't been able to sustain that type of performance and is hitting 10% better than the league in 2012.  

Pence made $10.5 million this year and will likely make around $15 million next year.  The Phillies may elect to sign him long-term if they can agree to a good price.  

Philadelphia doesn't have too much in the way of position player prospects waiting in the minors.  Their two top position player prospects were outfielder Domonic Brown and infielder Freddy Galvis.  Brown has played himself out of that status and Galvis is currently serving a 50 game suspension for failing a drug test.  

What should we expect out of the Phillies' starting 8?
Catcher Carlos Ruiz: One of the top players at his position.  3.5 WAR
First baseman Ryan Howard: Should return to average production.  2 WAR
Second baseman Chase Utley: Will produce when he plays.  How much will he play?  1.5 WAR
Third baseman:  Who's on third???
Shortstop Jimmy Rollins: Still a solid contributor.  3 WAR
Leftfielder:  ???
Centerfielder: ???
Rightfielder Hunter Pence:  2.5 WAR

Even with the question marks the Phillies' starting 8 should provide about 13 WAR.  With replacement level being about 43 wins we get up to 56 wins before considering the Phillies' obvious strength, the pitching staff. 

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Trade Review: Hanley for Eovaldi

Not a lot of time to do this, this "real job" really gets in the way...

From Twitter generally, and Ken Rosenthal specifically
BREAKING: Sources tell me and to , Eovaldi and prospect to .
The Dodgers also receive reliever Randy Choate and give up minor-league reliever Scott Mcgough.

First, the easy part of the deal to comment on, Choate for Mcgough.  Choate is a LOOGY and an effective one.  For his career he's struck out 28% of left-handed batters while walking 7% and allowing batted balls that suggest he should give up 2.5 runs per 9 innings.  At the same time he's struck out just 11% of righties while walking 15% and should be giving up 5.5 runs per 9.   LA should rarely allow him to face a right-handed batter.  Choate will join Scott Elbert as lefties in the Dodger pen.

McGough came in 34th on this list of LA's top 200 prospects.  He has decent minor league numbers and the scouting reports are pretty good, but, as a minor league relief pitcher he just doesn't have much value.  There is every possibility that Choate will provide more value from here on out than Mcgough  will.

Now...Hanley.  Hanley used to be a top offensive performer.  Between 2006 and 2010 he was consistently hitting more than 30% better than a league average hitter.  That is excellent for a SS. His defense left a lot to be desired, but he was a very valuable player contributing at least 4.5 wins above replacement in each season.  Then came the last 2 seasons. His hitting has been roughly league average.    He's seen an uptick in strikeout rate and a downturn in power but the biggest problem has been a sever drop in BABIP.  In his prime seasons about 33% of his batted balls became hits.  The last two seasons that number is closer to 27%.  He's hitting the same number of line drives, ground balls and fly balls so I'm not sure why the change.  The internets also haven't come to a consensus on what happened to Hanley.

Regardless, he's still a marked improvement on what LA's been running out at the hot-corner this year.  Dodger 3Bmen are hitting just .306/.369 (OBP/SLG) while Hanely has managed .322/.428.  Hanley may also see time at SS where Dee Gordon and company have "hit" .285/.320.  Hanley is an offensive upgrade.  His defense has never been great, or good, or average, but it't hasn't been terrible either.  Hanley will be an upgrade over either Uribe or Gordon depending on where he plays.

Hanley is signed for about $15 million a season through 2014.  He's on pace for about 3 WAR this season.  1 WAR is generally considered to be worth about $5 million on the open market.  3 * $5 million = $15 million.  Hanley should be worth something like what he's getting paid.

Now, Eovaldi.  Eovaldi's stock has risen rather rapidly recently (alliteration for the win!).  He was most recently number 6 on the aforementioned top 200 list.  Just 22, he's thrown about 100 innings in the bigs and hasn't embarrassed himself; striking out about 15% of batters while walking 10% and pitching in a way that would be expected to give up about 4.5 runs per 9.  That's a decent #4 starter.  Plus he has room and time to improve.  He's not a star, but he's a quality major league pitcher.

My official take on this trade.  I like it.  LA has nothing in the pipeline in the infield so having Hanley at 3B for the next 2+ seasons works.  Gordon isn't a sure thing at SS so Hanley could end up there as well.  The Dodger offense, outside of Kemp, Ethier and the first half of AJ Ellis' season, is pretty poor so even an average bat is a significant upgrade.

Eovaldi is a useful pitcher, but not a star. LA a solid rotation in Kershaw, Billingsley, Capuano and Harang.  Ted Lily is on the DL but all signs point to Ryan Dempster donning blue for his next start and all of LA's top prospects are pitchers.  And Rubby de la Rosa should be in the mix in about a month or so.

For once Ned didn't get taken to the cleaners in a trade.  Now, we'll see what he gives up to get Dempster.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Debut Review: Martin Perez

Martin Perez' first start was pretty successful.

5 + innings giving up just 2 runs on 1 walk, 5 strike outs, a HR and 7 ground balls.  That effort translate into an expected runs allowed of 4.92 per 9 innings.

Martin has a history of walking a lot of batters in the minors (3.8 BB/9 in 2010 and 2011), so it was good (for those affiliated with the Rangers) to see him avoiding the walks.  He did give up a lot of line drives (the reason for the high expected runs allowed) which may have been the result of throwing some meatballs.

We can see a lot of pitches over the center of the plate, and not a lot on the corners.  Martin will probably have to locate his pitches better in the future to continue getting this type of favorable result.

For the game Martin threw 103 pitches, 59 for strikes.  League average strike% is about 63% so Martin was a bit below that.

According to Brooksbaseball, Martin threw 25 4-seam fastballs at about 93 MPH, 36 2-seam fastballs at 92 MPH, 28 changeups at 82 MPH, 13 curve balls at 75 MPH and 1 82 MPH pitch was labelled a slider.

His most impressive pitch looks to be his changeup.  Martin induced 5 swinging strikes on his changeups, that's an 18% swinging strike rate.  League average swinging strike rate is around 9%, so his changeup looks like a good pitch.  Unfortunately, Martin didn't get a swinging strike on any of his other pitches.

The Rangers indicated before the start that they were undecided if Perez would stay in the rotation.  While his results make him look like a major league pitcher, his process leads one to believe a bit more time in the minors might be necessary.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Baseball people that don't understand baseball

Came across this article on

Ken Gurnick, writer for The Dodgers will suffer through the 0-for017 and .220 batting average young shortstop Dee Gordon had after Friday night because there will also be games like Saturday's.

Don Mattingly, LA Dodgers manager: Dee really got us a couple all by himself.  All the time we talk about what Dee doesn't do.  Today he gets hits, steals a bag, scores twice.  He was exciting today.


Gordon scores 2 runs today and that is supposed to off set a .270 On Base Percentage and an overall offense that is about half what an average major league hitter produces

That's probably not Gordon's true talent level though.  He's probably more of a .300 OBP guy which'd make him about 25% worse than the league average hitter...still not good.  If Gordon could get on base at a reasonable clip the Dodgers would score more runs than they will be relying on Gordon's speed to create errors.

So Mattingly and Gurnick appear to be giving Gordon all the credit for the first inning run.  After singling, Gordon stole 2nd base and then scored on this error by Albert Pujols.  According to Tom Tango's run expectancy matrix, with a runner on first and no outs an average team will score .95 runs.  That the Dodger scored in that situation is no huge surprise (unless you've been following the Dodgers' offense recently), it is what is expected.  Still, we'll give Gordon the difference between the 1 run that actually scored and the .95 expected runs.  That's .05 runs.

Then, in the sixth inning, Gordon hit a triple (well, Mark Trumbo misplayed a line drive into a triple).  With no outs and a runner at third run expectancy is 1.48 runs.  Gordon's speed likely allowed him to reach 3rd instead of 2nd as Trumbo retrieved the ball quickly and made it a close play at 3rd.  Most other runners likely would have had to stop at 2nd.   Run expectancy with a runner at 2nd and no outs is 1.18.  So, we'll give Gordon credit for getting to third and credit for increasing the Dodgers' run expectancy by .3 runs.

Gordon's base running can be credited for .35 runs in this game.

Some people will say that since the Dodgers didn't get any hits after Gordon's and Hairston's ball might have been a double play had Gordon not stole 2nd Gordon should get all the credit for the first run .  It is true that the Dodgers didn't get any hits, however, after Gordon stole 2nd the Angles may have pitched Hairston differently than they would have had Gordon been on first.  They may have lined up defensively differently.  They may have pitched subsequent hitters differently had Gordon not scored.  We can't say that the Dodgers hitters would have had the same result.

Plenty of people will still say that that is a bunch of hooey.  :rolleyes:  Ok then, after Gordon's triple Jerry Hairston had this single that scored Gordon.  You can see that Izturis almost made a play on it since he was near 3rd keeping Gordon close.  Had Gordon been at 2nd then Izturis would have been farther from the line and the ball likely would have gone down the line for a double.  Gordon would have scored anyway and Hairston would have been at 2nd instead of 1st.

Anyways,  Gordon's great game lead to the Dodgers scoring about .35 more runs than they likely would have scored without him.

But, how many runs has he cost the Dodgers by not being able to get on base?  That's a lot harder to figure out.

Gordon has 280 plate appearances on the season.  He's been on base (by hit, walk, and hit by pitch) 75 times and scored 31 runs.

Given the league average OBP of .319 an average hitter would get on base 89 times in 280 plate appearances.  That's a difference of 14 times on base over the course of the season so far.

The league average hitter has scored 9022 runs on 25202 times on base (by hit, walk, and hit by pitch). That's a rate of a run scored per each .35 times on base.

.35 times the 14 extra times on base is 5 extra runs scored by an average hitter.

5 runs divided by the .35 runs that Gordon was credited in this game is 14.  Gordon would have to have a game like this every 14 games to score an equal number of runs as an average hitter.

I don't know how to check that, but that seems like a rather high frequency of excellent games out of Gordon.

Yeah, Gordon is an exciting player who makes a lot of plays with his legs and his fun to watch, but his overall performance is sub par.  The Dodgers should not put up with hit current level of performance because he'll have the rare game where his legs change the game.

The Graphic Steve Blass Disease

Steve Blass disease is the second most infamous disease named after a baseball player.

Steve Blass disease is defined (by wikipedia) as players who inexplicably and permanently lose their ability to accurately throw a baseball.

Well herpes is
viral disease from the herpesviridae family caused by both Herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) and type 2 (HSV-2)*wikipedia

That description doesn't really tell you what herpes looks like though.  Wanna see what herpes looks like?  Click here.  *I could have linked to worse, but didn't feel it necessary.

Likewise, the definition of Steve Blass disease doesn't tell you what it looks like.


It looks like this.


Not such a pretty sight eh,

How about this variant?


Or this one?


Lastly, in case the severity of the disease is still not apparent.  A teenager affected by said disease.

Friday, January 27, 2012

2012 Dodger Outlook Part 2

The other day I ran down what I'd do with the position players in 2012.  Now it's time to take a look at the pitching staff.

Up first,

Kershaw is the only Dodger starter who is not under contract for next season (technically, he's not under contract for this year either.  He and the Dodgers have submitted figures to arbitration.  The $8.125 million listed above is the midpoint of those two figures) .  He's also far and away the best Dodger starter.  It would behoove the team to sign him to a long-term deal.  5 years and $85 million?  Something in that range?

Billingsley and Kershaw were supposed to be Drysdale and Koufax.  Kershaw is coming a lot closer to holding up his end of the bargain that Billingsley is.  Chad has been a productive pitcher for LA, but he's been too inconsistent, and hasn't been able to take that next step.  Still, a pitcher like Chad on the free market would command a higher salary than what Chad is due.

Lilly had a pretty Ted Lilly year in 2011.  It looked a bit ugly through July, but he turned it on in the second half.  Hopefully, he can start off 2012 as hot as he ended 2011.  Lilly is signed for another season after this and he's got to be at the end of his useful life.  A hot start and maybe some team will get desperate and trade for him.

I put Capuano and Harang together because Nedo signed them both to two year deals this off season.  This seems...ill advised.

Capuano signed for 2 year and $10 million with an $8 million team option in 2014.
Capuano is coming off this season with the New York Mets:
31 starts, 186 innings, 4.55 ERA, 1.6 WAR

Jeff Francis just signed a minor league deal with the Cincinnati Reds.  Francis did this last year:
31 starts, 183 innings, 4.82 ERA, 2.6 WAR

3 different projections systems project Capuano for the following:
9-9 record, 167 innings, 4.37 ERA

Those 3 projection systems project Francis for the following:
8-9 record, 157 innings, 4.49 ERA

Nearly identical pitchers.  One, signed by Ned, signs for $10 million.  The other, not signed by Ned, signs a minor league deal.

Harang is similar.  Compare his projected numbers
8 - 9 134 innings, 4.31 ERA to these 4 pitchers

Aaron Cook: 4 - 5 88 innings 4.69 ERA.  Signed to a minor league deal
Paul Maholm: 8 - 9 159 innings, 4.23 ERA.  Signed for 1 year $4.5 million
Jason Marquis: 8 - 8 129 innings, 4.33 ERA.  Signed for 1 year $3 million
Joel Pineiro: 8 - 9 141 innings, 4.29 ERA.  Signed to a minor league deal

How are these guys significantly different than Harang?  

The worst part of of the signings of Capuano and Harang is that they are for two years.  The Dodgers have a number of young starters getting close to the big leagues.  With 5 starters locked into contracts, there's won't be much room for them.

Nathan Eovaldi looks just as good as Harang at a fraction of the cost.

I need some good news.

That looks pretty good.  Almost an entire fully functioning bullpen all being paid the minor league minimum for both this year and next.  Especially since it is lead by Kenley Jansen who is absolutely nasty.  There's not much to do here besides sit back and let these guys develop...and let Javy Guerra rack up saves.  Javy is a good pitchers.  Not a great a great pitcher.  Not a really good pitcher.  Just a good pitcher.  But...if he can spend a year or two as a closer, he'll have value beyond his talent. If Guerra has 15-20 saves at the break, and a team comes calling, let him go.  

Moving on the the less happiness inducing part of the bullpen.  These guys are making actual money while not actually being any better than the cheap guys.  Guerrier is useful, but infinitely replaceable.  No real reason to give him any money.  MacDougal really isn't useful.  Any number of AAA relievers could replace his innings.  Blake Hawksworth is on the edge of usefulness.  But, his sister is hot.  

Not much to do here.  Only one long contract on the books, a bunch of major league minimum guys after that.  Trade Guerra if the opportunity presents itself.  We're not likely to compete so there's no real reason to add anyone.  We could have taken a chance on Brad Lidge who signed with the Nationals for $1.  Half a season of that and a trade would have worked out.  Similarly, we could sign Hong-Chih Kuo.

So there you have it.  Not a lot of room for making moves with Colletti doubling down on every mediocre free agent available.  

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

2012 Dodger Outlook

Less than a month until pitchers and catchers report and Ned Colletti has assembled a Dodger team that is ready to compete for an NL West 2005.

Unfortunately, it is 2012.

No, really.  Check it out.

Ned reached into his bag of tricks and pulled out a handful of veterany goodness that was an exciting team half of a decade ago.  This looks like a team that will be more likely to be competing for a winning record than an NL West pennant.

So, what do we have to look forward to.

Well, one big thing.  But, what about after April?

Unfortunately (I don't drink, but if you do you and are in need of a drinking game go ahead and drink whenever you read the word 'unfortunately'), Ned signed every gritty veteran player to a 2 year contract this off-season.  That means we'll have to suffer through this same mediocre Dodger team not only in 2012, but again in 2013.

There's not much flexibility, or opportunity, in the roster for the next 2 seasons, but let's take a look at what could happen.  AKA what I think should happen.

We'll go position by position.  Starting with:

Right Field

Andre ended last season prematurely with a knee injury and his power numbers took a pretty big hit from what we're used to seeing from him.  He still managed to be productive though.  Andre is in his last year of arbitration in 2012 and will be a free agent after the season.  He's a good player, but probably not the guy the Dodgers need to commit to at this point.  He's a poor defensive outfielder.  His -9.7 UZR/150 is 2nd to last amongst qualified right fielders since 2009.   He also has a well documented struggle against left-handed pitchers.  According to FanGraphs' splits, Andre has a .386 wOBA against righties and a .292 wOBA vs lefties.

The best case scenario here is that Ethier comes back and shows that his knee is healthy in spring training then gets off to a good start so he can be traded at the deadline.  I'm not going to speculate as to which teams might be interested in Andre, or what we can get for him.  Ideally, some young players that will be ready to contribute in 2014.  Moving Ethier will bring in some young talent and open up right field for...

Kemp is coming off a near MVP season.  I could spill gallons of virtual ink writing superlatives for Kemp, but that's not necessary, I'll just spill a few ounces.  Kemp was just a few hits short of winning the triple crown.  He was 2nd in the league to MVP Ryan Braun in both wOBA and wRC+.  He was 1 home run away from 40/40.  He lead the NL in both fWAR and bWAR by a hefty margin.  He was rewarded with an 8 year $160 million contract.

Unfortunately, Kemp is miscast as a center fielder.  Like Ethier, Kemp's UZR/150 is closer to -10 than to average.  Kemp checks in at -9.3 over the last 3 years.  That's 3rd worst in the majors.  As a right fielder, Kemp would have solid range and a strong arm, he'd probably be a plus defender for the next few seasons in right.

Center Field
Matt Kemp will start off 2012 in center.  After we trade Ethier for a boatload of riches we'll need someone else to play there.  That someone is, quite obviously
Tony is certainly not Kemp's equal with the bat.  Kemp hit more home runs in September last season (8) than Gwynn has in his entire career (7).  But, where Kemp is one of the worst defensive center fielders in baseball, Gwynn is one of the best.  The best, in fact, according to FanGraphs with a 20.8 UZR/150.  That's a 30 run difference in defense.  That's significant.

FanGraphs WAR says that Gwynn has been about a 2 WAR player over each of the last 3 seasons in limited playing time.  That's certainly a bargain about a million dollars a year.  On a team that's not likely to be contending, Gwynn makes a fine, cheap, center fielder.

Left Field
Is a bit of a mess.  Gwynn will likely start off the season splitting time with
Rivera started 2011 with the Toronto Blue Jays and played so poorly that he was released.  Unfortunately, Ned figured that meant he was totally worth paying a few million dollars for.  To Ned's credit, Rivera played better in Dodger blue.  Rivera had a 79 OPS+ with Toronto and a 105 OPS+ in LA.  Unfortunately, neither one of those numbers is good enough to be a staring left fielder.

Fortunately (ehh...don't drink), Rivera does have some use against left-handed pitchers.  He has a career wOBA of .353 (116 wRC+) vs left-handers compared to a .326 wOBA (98 wRC+) vs right-handers.   That's not an extreme split, but...I'm searching for some reason not to absolutely hate having him on the team.  I've already discussed Ethier's struggles vs lefties.  Gwynn also shares that affliction.  Having Rivera around to face lefties for those guys isn't a terrible idea.

After Gwynn moves to center field to replace Kemp who will be replacing the traded Ethier, Rivera wouldn't be a terrible choice to play LF full time.  He's not the only option, though. 
Any of these guys could get some playing time in the majors.  Trent Oeltjen is the old man of the group. He's 29 and has 99 major league games under his belt.  He's not that good though so if any of the younger prospects breaks out in 2012, we could see them big the club.

You'll notice one name is conspicuously absent, more on him in just a minute.

But first

First Base
James Anthony Loney is the incumbent.  The Dodgers have had high hopes for James Loney since drafting him 19th overall in 2002.  Loney made an impressive major league debut in 2006.  Since then, Loney has, unfortunately, been one of the worst every day first basemen in baseball; he's produced 8.6 fWAR, which is just a bit more than guys like Albert Pujols, Joey Votto and Prince Fielder produce in 1 season.  James is also coming off one heckofa weird season.

Loney started off last season hitting to a .208 wOBA.  That's 74% worse than an average major league hitter.  He straightened it out in May and June, hitting a very James-Loney-like .342 wOBA.  Then, he cratered in July, somehow hitting worse than he did in April.  Then, he turned into Miguel Cabrera for the final two months of the season; putting up .451 and .424 wOBAs.

So, what the hell?  There are about 6 months in a major league season.  For 2 of them he hit like Clayton Kershaw.  For 2 of them he hit like James Loney.  And for 2 of them he hit like Miguel Cabrera.  What's he going to do this year?

Most likely, he's going to hit like James Loney, that's who he is after all.  That's just not good enough.  If that's the James Loney we get we should try and trade him for anything we can at the deadline and move on at the position.

What if he hits like Miguel Cabrera again?  Then we have some deciding to do.  We have to decide if it is for real.  If it is, we need to look into signing him to a long term contract.  If it isn't, we need to trade him to someone who thinks that it is real.  

If Loney gets traded, then first base belongs to
Sands jumped onto the Dodgers' radar after a huge 2010 in which he hit 35 home runs between A and AA.  He was called up to bigs early in the 2011 season, and struggled. He returned to Albuquerque where he put up decent numbers then ended the season in LA where he hit .415/.493 over his last 20 games.  Sands may, or may not, be a major league quality first baseman.  He's not a sure thing, but he's got good plate discipline and developing power.  If he doesn't hit enough for first base, he's an option in left field as well.

Second Base
Belongs to
Mark Ellis turned a season in which he was 32% worse than an average hitter into 2 years and $8 million.  Thanks, Nedo.  Ellis was terrible with Oakland (.246 wOBA about 50% of an average major league hitter's production) before bouncing back a bit with the Rockies (.313 wOBA).  If we get the Mark Ellis that the Rockies got, he's a useful player.  I'm not betting $8 million on it though.  Ellis is 35 this year and most of his value comes from defense.  Defense is the first to go with age.  This could get ugly real fast if Ellis' hitting is gone and his defense goes.  Good thing we're locked into him for 2 seasons.

Third Base
I kinda liked the move to acquire
before the 2011 season.  He was coming off two resurgent years with the Giants.  He played strong defense.  He had some pop.   Most knowledgeable Dodger bloggers panned the signing.  They were right, at least for 1 year.  Uribe was horrid last year.  So much so that he became a meme.  There is some hope for a bounce back.  Uribe wasn't healthy last season.  Being healthy and playing regularly has to lead to better production.  He still had a positive UZR rating.  Even though he didn't hit, it appears that he could field.  That give ME hope there is something left in the thank.  There better be.  He's going to be on the roster and in the starting lineup for two more years.

Short Stop
Here, watch some of these.

I'll wait.

I don't know how good Dee Gordon is going to be.  He doesn't walk.  He strikes out too much.  He has no power.  He weighs less than an ounce of helium.  But dude is fast.  And electric.  Seriously, just watch those videos.  Let him play.  We've got to see what we've got.

Other Infielders
Jerry Hairston jr isn't a bad player.  He plays the infield.  He plays the outfield.  He can hit the ball out of the stadium now and again.  He's better than Aaron Miles.  He's not as good as Jamey Carroll.

Adam Kennedy.  He played DH for the Mariners last season.  He must be able to hit right?  No?  Then why are we paying him twice what we'd pay Justin Sellers to do the same thing?  Why isn't the battle for 2nd back up infielder between Justin Sellers and Ivan DeJesus?  DeJesus projects to the same line as Kennedy (.321/.353 85 OPS+).  Whatever Ned.  At least Kennedy is only around for 1 season.

AJ Ellis finally gets his shot at age 31.  Ellis has a career OBP of over .400 in the minors and over .440 in AAA.  He's got no power; 19 home runs in over 2000 trips to the plate.  But, he's been able to get on base.  At worst, he's a major league back-up catcher.  Maybe he's even a starter.  The offensive bar for catchers is very low.  Major league catchers hit just .313/.389 last season.  If Ellis reaches his ZiPS projection of an 87 OPS+ that'd put him in the same offensive bracket as Geovany Soto, Jarred Saltalamacchia, and AJ Pierzynski, and other catchers with impossible names to spell.  A couple years of league average catching at minor league prices is very valuable.

Tim Federowicz was acquired in a *%%#(&*(#$(**)#'n dead line deal involving the Boston Red Socks and Seattle Mariners.  The reports on him aren't glowing.  Good defensive catcher.  Might not hit enough to play full time in the bigs.  Well...Fex-X (as he's called.  What's up with catchers and names that are hard to spell?) spent most of last year in AA.  I'd let him continue to get experience, either there or AAA Albuquerque, while AJ Ellis takes his shot in the bigs.  Ideally, Ellis would impress enough to claim the starting spot allowing Fed-X to stay in the minors until late in the season when he could come up and play back-up for a month or two.

There you have it.  The complete plan for the Dodgers' non-pitchers for 2012.

Look for a similar post for the pitchers soon.